The State of the (Comic) Union

This year I went to Emerald City Comicon, not as a fan or cosplayer, but as a writer for bleedingcool.com. Going in this way, made me see things in a much different, and unfortunate, light.

Usually when I go, I’m trying to support my artist friends, cosplayers or just witness what new books are out, but, a lot has changed in a year. I was down to reading about 10 titles a month, then lower, then down to one. When that title ended, I was done. Not done with reading comics, thanks to DC reviving Wild Dog for Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye, but I have really decreased my time in reading monthly books, because of work, other projects and money, I just couldn’t fit them into a slice of my life, which I will admit, feels very, very odd. Now, most of the comics I read are in graphic novel form or collected, as it wasn’t worth it to me to pick up a $3.99 book I could read in 4 minutes.

That said, as I wandered around ECCC, I noticed something different.

The slow demise of single issue, monthly comics.

Many tables had books by artists who had collected their stories. Those booths that didn’t had boxes and boxes of single comics. I mean….BOXES. All at 50%-80% off. With the exception of course to the guy who’s still (not) selling his 30 copies of Star Wars #1 at $80.00 a piece. I know this, because I saw him pack all of them back away. “It’s only worth what people are willing to pay.” I whispered to myself as I walked by.

The demographic I saw for those digging and fingering their way through the dusty boxes were mainly males, from about 25 years and up. More women then last year, but they weren’t looking at DC or Marvel. They were picking through the Anime and Indy stuff.

Sadly, most single issues stayed in the boxes. Taped up in their slowly disintegrating bags, only to wait until the next Con to be sold at a much lower price.

Why is this happening? In my opinion, it’s because comics are not only expensive, but they just aren’t needed anymore.

Now before you slam your crayon to paper and write me a hugely worded, badly spelled hate letter, let me explain as I understand, you have skin in this game. It’s why your reading it. You care about comics still, and that’s great!

But you aren’t the majority of the public and you aren’t buying them all to help.

While comic movies make BILLIONS of dollars, not a single movie studio has really set aside some money or time to develop a comic book commercial in front of the movie that brought people to the seats in the first place. Think about it. There would be no Avengers movie without the Avengers comic, but when is the last time you saw a tv commercial about making people go read the Avengers monthly?

That’s why people don’t have to buy them either. Because most “fans” don’t need to know the history of Doctor Strange or Deadpool. They simply need to sit in front of a movie screen and have it fed to them in 2 hours. Also, nowadays, most people just don’t care.

Gone are the days of comic book store arguments about how many colors of Kryptonite there are, or how many Robins have been killed. When is the last time you were in a verbal argument, not over the internet because a monkey with a typewriter could fight over the internet, no I mean, verbally arguing over Wolverines correct origin story?

Congrats if you have, but I’m going to guarantee you were the only one in a million mile radius to do so.

Being “outside the box” at ECCC, I saw that the “norms” or the ones who were there to see the costumes, games, celebrities and panels about costumes, games and celebrities, don’t care that much.

When I was growing up, that’s all that mattered. Your knowledge of comics. All the knowledge you accrued through hours and hours of reading.

Now that knowledge is a Google search away and takes seconds.

As a guy who worked at a comic shop for about 20 years and an AM radio station for 8, let me tell you, I can see when things are being phased out, and single issue comics are going the way of the record store.

Speaking of which, while in Seattle, I visited a dimly lit record store in Pike Street Market. There were 4 people in there. One owner, one customer talking to the owner like they were friends and two girls, who didn’t even own a record player. They just wanted to see what records looked like.

That’s where I see single issues at.

Don’t believe me?

Go buy a brand new comic off the rack. Put it in a cardboard backer and bag. Now, wait one week and try to get all of your money back on eBay or Amazon.

Unless its the only copy in the World or signed by Stan Lee who happened to be at the store when you bought it, you’ll be lucky to get half your money back.

Gone are the days of “This’ll put my kid through college” books. Also, at $3.99 a book, gone are the days kids buying comics because they would rather buy a $3.00 App that will take up 4x the amount of time to finish it. Who can blame them? They can play most of these with their friends. There’s SO much entertainment out there and as a kid, its important to play what your friends are playing so you can talk about it. That’s what comics were, but with a thousand other things to do, read and play, its hard to get into reading a short story when your friends aren’t.

I take no joy in saying this, but I think it’s time to let go. It’s time to admit defeat. Single issues are bought as Xmas stocking fillers. As something a father buys his kid when they’re in the hospital, only because he doesn’t know what else to buy. Or as “I remember this” memory purchases, only to be put down 2 minutes after you bought it because things have changed so drastically, you have no idea whats going on.

Also, don’t get me started on hard to find titles, comic shops not ordering them or so many crossovers, you’d have to spend half your paycheck to keep up.

I’m not saying all single issues are bad. There’s some really great stories and art out there right now. I personally witnessed some outstanding and fun stories, some of the best since Dark Knight re-started the comic world, but let’s say I buy a #1 from someone at a Con. Then I go to the local comic store and ask, “Can you order this?” If the answer is yes, I might stay with it, but I’ve seen too many times, the comic was only fun in the purchasing, doesn’t live up to its promise and is left behind for the comic store owner to be stuck with…OR….the comic store owner won’t take the chance and order it.

The hard truth is, no one cares about monthly story lines anymore, and the ones that do, are a dying breed. For every new person to pick up a comic, two more leave for collected novels or not return at all, whether its because of money, lifestyle or just bored of them.

Unfortunately, comics did it to themselves. DC had balls to change all their books to the new DC52. They saw something drastic needed to be done and pulled the trigger, hoping to get new readers for new #1’s, but it turned off so many people, not even some of the most hardened DC fans came back for “Rebirth”. DC shouldn’t take all the blame though. I was working in a comic shop at the time and saw the downfall before then. Stories, crossovers and price were making people leave by the dozens and by the time the comic world decided something should be done, it was too late.

Marvel movies are spectacular and not miss events, but the last time a Marvel comic got any press, it was because Captain America may have been a Hydra agent all along and people who hadn’t picked up the book in decades, suddenly took to the internet to defend a character they hadn’t read since Bucky was still his sidekick. The buzz lasted about as long as issue #2. Now a comic only gets buzz for outing gay characters or making men into women (Thor), girls into men (Iron Man) or white into black (Ms. Marvel) and while that’s all well and good, would the changes have been made if the books weren’t failing and the Alt Right crowd weren’t so easily manipulated into false anger against “those liberal PC books”?

Did you know one Marvel movie can make about as much in a month what the entire comic industry can sell in about a year?

So where’s the advertising budget to get more readers into single issues?

Again, I’m not proud of these statements, but I think we need to face the facts. Single issue, monthly comics are the new Album-8 track-cassette-CD-DVD-computer tower of the new World and I mourn for them. We had some good times. Every month I remember rushing in to see if Booster and Beetle were going to get in trouble with Maxwell Lord again or if Batman could figure out Riddlers new crime spree. I’ll miss those days. Much like I still get melancholy over seeing an old Blockbuster building empty and remembering how fun it was to go pick out a movie. I can look at some of my comics and remember the place I bought them and sometimes, what the day was like outside.

But time moves on and we have to adapt. We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! But for now, we mourn the passing of our old dear friends.

Single, monthly comic issues….R.I.P. 1933 – 2017

It was a good run.

Why We Need Captain America More Than Ever

I’m not going to lie. If you didn’t like CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, you may not be a true American.

Huh? How you like that?

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It occurred to me the other day how important Captain America really is while watching CA:WS.

First off, this is one of the BEST Marvel movies, if not comic book movie, of our age. The beauty of it isn’t the action, or stars or effects. It’s the entire movie itself. Everything comes together nicely and the best part is, it’s not really a super hero movie.

Sure, Cap can jump from 1,000 feet into the water and the technology to have three Helicarriers is off the charts, but take a step back and really look at the plot.

It’s a political thriller with a modern twist, twisted even more by a last generation hero. Robert Redford does his best here and he’s no stranger to these types of films. From Sneakers, to Spy Game to Legal Eagle. He brings as much authenticity to the role as anyone could.

Besides the obvious future technology, most of the film could be a documentary. It could be filmed right here, right now about our current state of affairs.

How about this:

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Alexander Pierce: Our enemies are your enemies, Nick. Disorder, war. It’s just a matter of time before a dirty bomb goes off in Moscow, or an EMP fries Chicago. Diplomacy? Holding action, a band-aid. And you know where I learned that; Bogota. You didn’t ask, you just did what had to be done. I can bring order to the lives of seven billion people by sacrificing twenty million. It’s the next step, Nick, if you have the courage to take it.

Nick Fury: No, I have the courage not to.

We’ve all heard the story of government cover ups. From setting up ISIS to 9/11. This film touches on the very nature of “behind the scenes” of big government. How far would they go to “protect us”?

Then there’s this scene, where Captain America comes to the rescue and must destroy the very government he used to believe in and fight for.

Steve Rogers: Attention all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, this is Steve Rogers. You’re heard a lot about me over the last few days. Some of you were even ordered to hunt me down. But I think it’s time to tell the truth. S.H.I.E.L.D. is not what we thought it was. It’s been taken over by HYDRA. Alexander Pierce is their leader. The S.T.R.I.K.E. and Insight crew are HYDRA as well. I don’t know how many more, but I know they’re in the building. They could be standing right next to you. They almost have what they want. Absolute control. They shot Nick Fury. And it won’t end there. If you launch those helicarriers today, HYDRA will be able to kill anyone that stands in their way. Unless we stop them. I know I’m asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.

With any one and every one being a suspect, this film now takes paranoia to a height I haven’t witnessed since John Carpenters THE THING.

He shows that, all we know or think we know, may not be the truth. He teaches us to question our government and its direction. Note though, he’s not calling for anarchy. He’s not saying “Kill every one!”. He’s saying, “Now is the time to REALLY stand up for what you believe in”.

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How about this scene where Captain America first lays eyes on the three giant Helicarriers.

Nick Fury: These new long range precision guns can eliminate a thousand hostiles a minute. The satellites can read a terrorist’s DNA before he steps outside his spider hole. We gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.

Steve Rogers: I thought the punishment usually came *after* the crime.

Nick Fury: We can’t afford to wait that long.

Steve Rogers: Who’s “we”?

Nick Fury: After New York, I convinced the World Security Council we needed a quantum surgeon threat analysis. For once we’re way ahead of the curve.

Steve Rogers: By holding a gun at everyone on Earth and calling it protection.

Nick Fury: You know, I read those SSR files. Greatest generation? You guys did some nasty stuff.

Steve Rogers: Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so the people could be free. This isn’t freedom, this is fear.

Nick Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the world as it is, not as we’d like to be. And it’s getting damn near past time for you get with that program, Cap.

Steve Rogers: Don’t hold your breath.

How far is too far when it comes to protecting America?

Taking our shoes off at the airport scanner? X-Ray scanners? Being pulled over because you don’t look like you should own that particular type of car? Wearing a hoodie at night in a different neighborhood?How many cameras do we need and do the police really need a tank to protect and serve?

Now listen, I’m not here to rant against the cops. I have two nephews who are Sheriffs and I myself went through Law Enforcement school.

What I’m saying is, it’s ok to question, but be prepared to stand up FOR those questions because most people don’t want you to question them.

Now, Devils Advocate here, what Zola says is also true.

Dr. Arnim Zola: HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom. What we did not realize was that if you tried to take that freedom, they resist.

It’s the scream heard round the world. Mention gun rights, people scream about their freedom. Mention public nudity and people scream about their freedoms. Mention how you got kicked out of that porno store for hugging that blow up doll and calling it “mom”, yell about your rights and freedom.

Everyone wants freedom, but only for them. Don’t let your freedom step on other peoples freedoms seems to be the phrase of the country.

“I don’t want you to come to this house with a rifle.”

“I carry a permit. I can carry it anywhere. Are you stepping on my freedoms?”

“No, but this is my house. Are you stepping on my freedoms?”

In other words…..Thanks, Obama.

(That was a joke)

Face it. We ruin everything. Chatroulette could have been one of the greatest inventions ever. It could have brought cultures and societies into a smaller World here we could learn from one another.

And now its famous for people showing off their dicks.

Give someone a right and they’ll say, “Well why can’t I have more?”

Here’s a pistol. “Well why can’t I have a rifle?”

Cap is lost in our new society and rightly so. Our country is one of the greatest, no doubt, but, we have to start understanding, we have problems. We aren’t THE greatest anymore and we the people are the reason.

I know that hurts some people, but lately we seem to be the like has-been baseball player, drunk in the corner of the neighborhood bar, screaming about how great he was, as drool trickles from the corner of his mouth.

The link below is by far, one of the best moments in TV history. Now, it’s dated and some of the statistics are wrong now, but some of them are higher and sadly, some of them are lower, but it needed to be said and it needs to be heard.

I urge you to take the time and watch it until the end.

The Most Honest Three Minutes in TV History

If you can’t watch it, here’s the transcript:

[Jenny] Hi, my name is Jenny, I’m a sophomore and this for all three of you. Can you say in one sentence or less – what – (laughing in background) you know what I mean: “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?”

[McAvoy] There’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy. Twenty-seventh in math. Twenty-second in science. Forty-ninth in life expectancy. A hundred and seventy-eighth in infant mortality. Third in median household income. Number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.***We stood up for what was right.  We fought for moral reasons.  We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people.  We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars. Acted like men. We aspired to intelligence. We didn’t belittle it — it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t, oh, we didn’t scare so easy.  We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men.  Men who were revered.  First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.  America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

Now, I fully realize there’s an agenda to this piece. This show, like many others, has it’s own slant on everything, but you can’t deny some of the things he says is true.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR may follow suit in these important questions. If you don’t know, the plot of the series follows a storyline in which the U.S. government passes a Superhero Registration Act, designed to have superpowered characters act under official regulation, somewhat akin to police officers, also, much like Superman did in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Those opposed to the act, led by Captain America, find themselves in conflict with those in support of the act, led by Iron Man.

So which side will you be on?

Do we have the right to know who’s defending us, even if it endangers them and those around them?

Why?

What business is it of yours? Oh, you want to know because you have the rights? What about his rights?

Thanks, Obama.

Captain America believes in the people, not the country. The people MAKE the country, not the other way around. He believes in the good of people, but knows, all of us carry some evil. It’s how much you let that evil out and what you do with the good inside, that makes you the person you are.

Cap cares about those who fought for our freedoms and knows the price of war. It’s not statistics written on a piece of paper that most government officials see. It’s in the faces of the young men who hold a gun for the first time, saying, “The line is drawn here.”

Cap tells us, all we need is the truth. The truth can help us build a greater country than ever before. He believes in us and in the end, like us, just needs a direction.

Steve Rogers: For as long as I can remember I just wanted to do what was right. I guess I’m not quite sure what that is anymore. And I thought I could throw myself back in and follow orders, serve. It’s just not the same.

Peggy Carter: [chuckles] You’re always so dramatic. Look, you saved the world. We rather… mucked it up.

Steve Rogers: You didn’t. Knowing that you helped found SHIELD is half the reason I stay.

Peggy Carter: [takes Steve’s hand] The world has changed, and none of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes the best that we can do is to start over.